BJP's massive win in Uttar Pradesh has started to have an impact in West Bengal: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is backing 150 huge rallies and meetings all over West Bengal on April 5 to mark the occasion of Rama Navami, considered to be the day when Hindu god, Rama, was born.
The religious programme has huge significance in the political turf of West Bengal that is ruled by the Trinamool Congress.
There will be 150 camps, with yatras and public meetings all over Bengal, including three major processions in Kolkata. Other big processions and meetings will be held in Islampur of Uttar Dinajpur, Ranigunj in Burdwan, Suri in Birbhum, Krishnagar in Nadia, Kharagpur of West Midnapore among others. The minimum number of people in each of these camps, processions and meetings will be 2,000, while the maximum number of people can go up to 15,000.
Rama Navami has never before been celebrated with such fanfare in Bengal like some other places in the country such as Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, Sitamarhi of Bihar, Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and so on. Rathayatras or chariot processions are taken out on the day (also called shobha yatras). The day in the Hindu calendar is in the month of Chaitra, which is in March or April of the Gregorian calendar. This year, Rama Navami is on April 5.
Bidyut Mukherjee, organisational secretary of the RSS in West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said: "These issues are becoming more and more important for West Bengal. The Hindus are under attack in this state, and therefore there is a need to mark the occasion."
Since Durga Puja celebrations had been under attack in Bengal in the past, Mukherjee said there's a need for the Hindus to assert themselves all the more. The locations of the major rallies are also significant on other counts.
Islampur of Uttar Dinajpur borders Bihar and Bangladesh and has a high Muslim population; and it is considered to be a communally sensitive area. Ranigunj in Burdwan is one of the Assembly constituencies from where BJP's Babul Supriyo was elected (Asansol Lok Sabha seat), Suri in Birbhum is a sensitive area where clashes between BJP and Trinamool Congress has taken place in the past, Krishnagar in Nadia is considered a good base for the BJP (an MP seat had been won by the party in 1999), and Kharagpur of West Midnapore is the Assembly constituency won by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
Such massive celebrations will however, turn out to be cause of major worries for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is having a tough time preventing Hindu-Muslim clashes throughout the state. In January, when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had come down to Kolkata, the Kolkata Police had denied the organisation permission to hold the meeting, but was eventually compelled to grant clearance after the organisers moved Calcutta High Court.
Perhaps because of the experiences of the recent past, RSS has planned not to be the official organiser of the Rama Navami meetings and camps. The programmes are being organised under the banner of Rama Navami Utjapan Samity (Organisation for celebration of Rama Navami).
"It is basically a people's organisation that will celebrate the occasion," said Mukherjee. "People from different cross-sections of the society are organising and participating in the programme."
However, RSS's role in it is significant – from organising the programme to speakers and so on. In fact, on March 15, a workshop was organised by the RSS in the organisation's Kolkata office, to train the speakers on how to address the Rama Navami gatherings. The thrust is to popularise Rama by projecting him as a "symbol of truth, ahimsa, justice, protector of women", the RSS organisational secretary added. He and several other key functionaries of the RSS are speakers in the meetings – which will take place at the end of the shobha yatras.
Most significantly, three major shobha yatras in Kolkata (in the city's north, south and east) is also a direct challenge to Banerjee and her administration.